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Saturday, 27 June 2020

INDIA'S NEW PROPOSAL MAY WORSEN THE CLIMATE CRISIS

 INDIA'S NEW PROPOSAL MAY WORSEN THE CLIMATE CRISIS

India's new potential environmental legislation, highlighted in The Draft EIA Notification 2020 is being seen by environmentalists as a desperate attempt to dilute the existing environmental EIA regulations who have called it an "undemocratic evasion of environmental responsibility." 

 The Ministry of Environment is open to public comments on this draft till June 30, 2020 - a date that is approaching fast.  

In a statement, the ministry said that "any person interested in making any objections or suggestions on the proposal may forward the same in writing to the e-mail address:" eia2020-moefcc@gov.in ".

Environment


 LAWS TO HELP DODGE CLEARANCE

 • India's Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEFCC) recently proposed a Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification 2020, seeking notification.  draft to replace the current 2006

• EIA is an important process for evaluating the potential environmental impact of a proposed project via a public-based tool to influence project approval.

 • The newest draft which allows delayed approvals, softens regulations, and reduces monitoring - is being hailed as fundamentally detrimental to the environment.


 EIA TO ALLOWTA POST-FACTO APPROVAL

 • The primary issue with the new ElA is that it awards 'post-facto approvals,' implying that clearance can be granted after the project has already started without permissions. 

 • Such delayed consent allows environmental damages to be waived off as mere 'violations', and the fines imposed thereafter are unable to reverse the damage caused or effectively stop projects.  

• Post-facto approvals violate principle 'of environmental sustainability which aims to' prioritize preventing ecological damage 'over punishing it. 


INCREASED ROOM FOR NON-COMPLIANCE 

• Earlier, project proponents were required to submit a report every six months to show that they were working within granted permissions;  EIA 2020 reduces this to once a year.  

• An increased reporting period allows time for irreversible environmental, social or health consequences;  for example, a mining project which contaminates water bodies would be noticed too late. 

 • Furthermore, the draft increases the period for which clearance is granted, classifying mining projects to be 'in construction phase' for 50 instead of 30 years.


 CRUCIAL DEFINITIONS REVISED 

• The draft introduces the term 'strategic projects';  no public information will be available regarding such projects. 

 • Further, the draft notification states that new construction projects to the extent of 1,50,000 m2(instead of the existing 20,000 m2) will not require 'detailed scrutiny' by experts or public consultation.

  • While previously non-maintenance dredging - the removal of deposits, widening and deepening of rivers and sea beds - was not allowed, it has now been permitted for waterway construction.
INTERPLAY WITH POLITICS

 • The government seeks to bolster political control by molding economic projects to political ends. 

• The draft has done away with the requirement of state governments to have a concrete role in setting up expert committees;  this further enhances the clout of the central government over regulatory authorities.  

• State governments have to send in nominations for committee members, which too, the central government has the option of rejecting.


 PUBLIC CONSULTATION AMIDST COVID-19 

• The government made the draft publicly available on March 23 right before the COVID-19 lockdown;  under the Environmental Protection Act, the public has a 'notice period' of 60 days to send in objections. 

 • Environmental organizations and members of parliament argued that the lockdown restricted the consultation process of the public and stakeholders, many of whom don't have internet access.  

• After a widespread outcry, the MOEFCC announced that the notice period has been extended till June 30, 2020.

A CALL TO SAVE THE ENVIRONMENT

 • Environmentalists are encouraging the public to send suggestions and objections to the draft notification via email at eia2020-moefcc@gov.in;  the government is obligated to consider these. 

 • Several pre-drafted emails - which highlight the clauses that decrease public influence, legitimize violations, and give discretionary powers to authorities - are being circulated on the internet.  Experts suggest that 'decreasing the delay of granting environmental clearance' is a better method to improve business, as opposed to drafting laws which prioritize development over sustainability.

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